The hypocrisy of Miki Agrawal’s open letter on feminism, which she posted on Medium on February 6, 2016, is now apparent after reports of sexual abuse, low pay and a hostile environment at Thinx, the period underwear company she co-founded in 2011.
“I believe we have an opportunity to continue to deepen the fragile but strengthening foundation that women stand on today.” Ms. Agrawal wrote.
The letter was in response to a backlash she received after she told The Cut, “I only started relating to being a feminist, literally, right when I started my company. Every time I thought about the word feminist, I thought about an angry, ranty … girl.”
Those sounded like the words of someone who didn’t mind using “feminism” to sell her products. And they were. She’s not the first CEO to do this. Companies from Philip Morris, which capitalized on the women’s movement in the 1960's to sell Virginia Slims cigarettes to women to Audi’s Super Bowl ad proclaiming its support for gender pay equality despite only employing a handful of women, have used feminism to boost their sales and credibility.
Rack reported that since January, Thinx has seen ten of it's 35-person staff leave, while “a half-dozen current and former employees, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, all described a company culture in which substandard pay, flimsy benefits, and scarce perks are endured in exchange for working toward a mission they truly believe in.”
Ms. Agrawal is comparable to Ivanka Trump, who has used feminism to sell her clothing and jewelry but only agreed to 8-weeks maternity leave after the company’s former Chief Marketing Officer and her team fought for it. They were the creators of #WomenWhoWork, but it is Ms. Trump who is capitalizing on it. She has a new book coming out in May about the subject.
Capitalism and feminism don't work. You can’t treat your employees different from the women you're selling to. It’s morally wrong. It’s despicable. And the fact that a woman can start a company with the intention of using our struggles for financial gain is infuriating. Nothing is wrong with making money but change your message. Do not claim to represent and care about women, while mistreating the women who are helping you build your company.